A good portion of my riding friends grew up on BMX bikes. Beyond making them all exceptionally better riders than me, it left them with tales from the trail. While most kids started at their local racetrack a lot moved on to building their own BMX trails and jumps away from the screaming parents and the pressure to perform. Left to their own devices, they were able to create the terrain that they wanted and ride however and whenever they saw fit. I have listened to countless stories of all night digging parties, arguments over tarps, dog drama and of course the often controversial ‘no dig no ride’ policy.
A long tradition amongst the BMX trail riding community is that visitors are required to dig and help maintain trails to get their laps in. BMX trails are often built by a group of close friends and riding buddies, and while they are usually open to visitors, they also know that they sacrificed long days and lots of effort to create a fun place to ride.
I think about this a lot in regards to mountain bike trails. So many of us ride at local parks and trail networks and have never once picked up a shovel or rake. We go around downed trees and through areas with inadequate drainage. When we return to the trails and these obstacles have been fixed or removed we give it little thought. Because most mountain bike trails are located in public spaces and are maintained by different organizations, it is actually frowned upon if an individual starts making changes or repairs to existing trails. So where does that leave the rider wanting to contribute to the trails that they ride on or the creation of new trails?
This past weekend on a rather gloomy and typical Pittsburgh fall day we tagged along with Trail Pittsburgh, a local trail building cooperative to tackle some much-needed maintenance in Hartwood Acres. Hartwood Acres is a county park literally located in the backyard of the Dirt Rag office. Many of the trails in the park were initially carved and mapped out by the Dirt Rag staff. The amount of review product that has been ridden and photographed in that park is monumental. The park is essentially a part of Dirt Rag, and we feel taking care of the trails is something that we would like to be more active in.
We spent the morning rerouting an old trail to eliminate a terrible corner for both climbing and descending. With shovels, rakes, and hoes we bench-cut the route adding a few hundred feet of new trail. As the morning went on and the trail took shape I quickly realized how individuals can lose themselves to trail building the same way they do to riding. Spending a day in the woods with friends and co-workers shaping the earth into a ribbon of fun snaking through the trees, it felt as fulfilling as a day of riding.
Due to weather, constant riding and horse traffic trail systems are often in need of maintenance, and trail builders are usually in search of a few helping hands. If putting in some work on your local trail system is something that interest you there are often public trail maintenance days like the one we just attended. Talk to your local shop or do a quick internet search and you will likely find a group ready to accept assistance. There’s special kind of satisfaction in building your own fun.